World Influence

July 2005


America was once number one in so many ways that the American public could have been forgiven for thinking that America represented the best nation on the planet. The opinion has lasted a lot longer than the foundation for it.

It is a very interesting fact that anyone who is critical of America is instantly accused of being anti-American. The notion persists that if you do not froth at the mouth with adoration of all things American, you must necessarily be a detractor of America and against America.

When your friend does something that is sloppy or needlessly risky, what kind of a friend are you to praise them as if they had done something needful and prudent? Everybody knows that there are things wrong with this country -- we may not agree about what those things are, but very few of us think America is perfect the way it is. Why, then, do people object so much when somebody stands up and says that they think America is wrong?

Just after World War II, America was a much better place to live in than just about anywhere else on the planet. There was nowhere else that offered the intact development, economic opportunity or personal liberty available to most ordinary folks in America. It was miles from perfect then, too, but in comparison, it was miles ahead of most anywhere else. Europe and Asia were in ruins. Most of the rest of the world was in relative chaos from the impending demise of the former world order (colonialism).

Since the end of the war, substantial sectors of the rest of the world have been gaining on us and surpassing us in many areas where we once were without equal. In the past 10 years, the amount of time Americans spend at work has been steadily increasing while in much of the rest of the developed world, it has been declining. Additionally, a higher percentage of families require two wage earners to meet their monthly bills when compared with any other developed nation.

Every time I go to the supermarket, I wonder why grocery checkers in Europe sit on stools and American grocery checkers, doing the same work, must stand all day -- something that has been proved to have long-term, adverse effects on health. More and more Americans leave their chosen line of work due to the development of disabilities than in any other developed nation. This does not even begin to touch on the latent effects of workplace stress or job insecurity.

There used to be a joke about how nobody ever put "I wish I'd spent more time at work" on their tombstone. Most white-collar workers in this country routinely accept the premise that they should work more than 40 hours per week. In the past 20 years, only the governments of England and the United States have consistently relaxed the requirement for paying time-and-a-half (or more) for hours in excess of 40 hours per week. Overtime came into being for two reasons: 1) To discourage employers from employing too few people and over-working their workers. 2) To compensate workers for the additional work stress and physical/psychological effects of working more hours.

The worst part of this whole business is that it is ignored. People are in denial. Americans still think that they're number one. They are fierce to deny that anywhere else is even in the running. Vietnam has a higher literacy rate. Many countries have a lower infant mortality rate. When the European parliament recommends the adoption of a 33 or 35-hour work week, this fact goes unreported in the United States. When more and more people are underemployed and must accept two or three part-time jobs because they cannot get one full-time job, this also goes unreported in the US press. People shrug their shoulders and say that there is nothing we can do.

There is something we can do. It is called exercising democracy. We have the right and the responsibility to exercise control on markets when those markets are harming us. What is a government for if not to serve the needs of the people? By adopting the theory that the government should never interfere, and that all government regulation is bad, we have turned the ship of state down a steep hill and removed the brakes. There is less and less incentive for any business to refrain from making a profit that harms the American people. Where profit is king, ordinary people become slaves to the rapacious demands of the wealthy. And in that trend -- away from democracy/equality and in the direction of privilege/tyranny -- do we lead the world.

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